BLM recently sat down with André Roque, the co-founder of Homeit, a remote access platform that allows guests, tenants and tradespeople access to your property remotely.
Integrating short-term rental platforms have become commonplace as the UK moves towards the new ‘sharing economy’ – where AirBnB, Deliveroo and Uber are becoming more prominent.
The idea of sharing your property and possessions or working at your own leisure has been a heated debate, both in business and government.
Roque speaks to us about the dangers and the legislation that will affect our economy going forward.
What is the sharing economy and will it survive?
As technology continues to connect us and draw us into a wider global community, both consumers and creators have quickly adapted and grown used to the swap/share economy.
Although this is a good thing, allowing people to monetise whatever assets they have, when you look at the wider picture, it starts to get more complicated. Skill-swapping on a local scale is very different to a global one. The fragility of companies set up in a golden haze of a sharing boom, that legislation or legal issues then catch up with, is tricky to ignore.
That’s partly why Homeit sits where it does. We are part of this community, and our users’ needs are led by platforms like AirBnB or Couchsurfing, but we’re not completely tied to them.
Is there issues around paying and rewarding staff who work in this economy?
I believe some companies have been very vocal on how important they believe it is to pay their staff the London living-wage.
Whereas the food delivery service, Deliveroo recently agreed to give its couriers sick pay and injury benefits, but only after a staff strike and a change in British law!
So, while companies like these are making sure their employees are treated like those in more stable full-time employment, there is still very little stopping other sharing-economy-based businesses taking advantage of the ebb and flow nature of the services they provide.
On the other hand, these companies, take Uber for example, offer ready-made, widespread and reputable self-employed roles for anyone with the appropriate skills to pick up and immediately hit the ground running. The ‘take it or leave it’ nature of the work can be a real benefit for some.
Uber has suffered massive knocks to its reputation and the whole idea of a sharing economy relies on the values of mutual respect. Can we really trust the sharing economy?
You’re completely right, it all revolves around trust. A driver, cleaner, or courier needs to be able to trust that their employer will treat them fairly, so that they can then benefit from the trust that customers put into these worldwide brands.
And if one organisation is really abusing the position, provided by being part of something as potentially positive as the sharing economy, we must be confident that at the end of the day our governments will intervene.
Looking closely into zero-hours contracts, or AirBnB host tax loopholes is the only way everyone can be sure that we share the benefit, as well as the skills, services etc.
How are Los Angeles and Barcelona (both big advocates) responding to the sharing economy?
Both cities are perfect examples of how governments have stepped in to manage the pros and tackle the cons involved in a booming sharing economy.
Air BnB generated €740 million in lettings in Barcelona, in 2015 alone. It’s vital to the government, and to those letting their properties traditionally, that the proper amounts of tax are paid on such a huge figure.
The government imposed a rigorous crack down on taxing hosts, AirBnB cooperated however they could, and, in theory, only those spoiling things for everyone else are affected by the result.
And in America, LA City Hall held a meeting to discuss the regulation of the short-term property rental industry; whether to introduce a possible cap on how many days a property can be let in a year, if a host has to live at the property, etc. Interestingly there was as many for as there were against.
With the local hotel workers union and those concerned about the property market on one side, and cleaners, house-keepers and many people with a spare room that find AirBnB an invaluable source of extra income on the other.
By holding this open dialogue, the city did its best to see what its citizens actually wanted. I think every city can learn from both of these not to dismiss new, sharing-focussed innovations as a fad, and to actually listen to what affects they have on communities.
What role does legislation play in this landscape?
I think that it’s vital for all new platforms to consider that, although they might be global, legislations are not. And, referring back to LA and Barcelona, both governments and sharing platforms need to work together to provide the best possible ecosystem for their citizens and users, respectively. Once again it all comes down to trust. The sharing economy is a beautiful thing! But it only works if everyone aims toward the same goals of simplicity, freedom and, in Homeit’s case, safety.